Feeding the Wolves Inside us to Embrace our Fears and Lead with Love, Understanding and Compassion
Feed the Wolf: Befriending Our Fears in the Way of Saint Francis
by Jon M. Sweeney
Book Review by Victor Narro
Award-winning contemporary spiritual writer Jon M. Sweeney has created another beautiful gift to share with the world. He is such a prolific writer who is able to tap deep into the essence of humanity. I always come way telling others that his latest work is the best one yet, and Feed the Wolf: Befriending Our Fears in the Way of Saint Francis is no exception.
It took much longer than I anticipated to write this review because I found myself reading this book twice. The first time was to embrace the lessons of St. Francis of Assisi through the powerful prose and storytelling of Sweeney. For the second time, I wrote down all the lessons and reflections that came to me as I read the pages. I am now compiling my notes to integrate them into my daily work for justice. Sweeney has written a book that like Francis of Assisi can appeal to anyone, anytime, and anywhere.
As in his other great books, Sweeney greets and welcomes us in the introduction. He opens the door and invites us in. He then guides us through the book as a journey. Always connecting with the reader. He ends his introduction with the message that the book is a map to a hidden treasure, once I have made it there, I can toss out the map and keep the treasure I find. From the many pages of reflections that I wrote as I read this book, I will share a few that speak to me at this moment.
Feed the Wolf grounds us deeply in St. Francis’s teaching of the interconnectedness of all beings. It is a powerful message that we should contemplate daily in the work for justice. The book teaches us that one life impacts another and how living our lives is completely reliant upon the lives of every other creature and all of the lives that have come before us. We do not, and cannot, live alone. We should strive to choose the living and actual over the future and potential. We need to “encounter the living” in the situation before us, surrender to it and bring love and compassion into it. Francis shows us how to lean into life with a flourish of spirit.
Sweeney mentions that Francis shows what he believes, rather than tell it. Francis was an artist who found his inspiration in people and other creatures. Francis teaches us “to love dangerously.” In social justice work, especially the labor movement, we are deeply embedded in the concept of solidarity where we are all sisters and brothers. Francis teaches us to be responsible for ourselves and each other. We are to be gentle, love dangerously, and embrace the present moment instead of tomorrow.
A major theme throughout the book is that we are all wolves. Every wolf has a story, including the wolf who refuses to see the fellow human as a person. There is also the wolf who judges but does not see the creature in front of them. The needs of Brother Wolf are precisely those of human beings everywhere — even his solitariness, followed by his desire for community. We recognize that there are plenty of wolves — and every wolf needs to eat. Why leave them hungry and live afraid? There’s a reason why wolves get hungry, remain hungry, and become threatening. Why is it that we often don’t believe it’s our job to meet them, understand them, feed them? When we overcome our fears and do what’s right, we meet the wolf, sometimes in ourselves, and begin to understand that we are all wolves, after all, at one time or another. We are all wolves. When we embrace the wolf within us and the wolves around us with love, understanding and compassion that we can bring peace and justice in the world.
This book provides invaluable inspiration and guidance for those engaged in the work for justice or those seeking a source of daily spiritual guidance. Sweeney ends the book with the message that the lesson of Francis is to simply feed the wolf. This delightful and remarkable book provides plentiful nourishment for the wolf inside me.
To order a copy of Jon M. Sweeney’s book, Feed the Wolf: Befriending Our Fears in the Way of Saint Francis, please go to the following link: https://www.broadleafbooks.com/store/product/9781506470733/Feed-the-Wolf
Victor Narro is Project Director and Professor of Labor Studies for the UCLA Labor Center and Core Faculty for the Public Interest Law Program of UCLA Law School.